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Toyota Head's Testimony Doesn't Quiet Criticism

Feb 25, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

Lawmakers expressed skepticism yesterday during testimony from Toyota President Akio Toyoda.  Toyoda appeared before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to answer questions about Toyota's recent safety lapses and recalls.

Toyoda delivered a lengthy apology, and  admitted that his company had lost sight of its "safety first"  philosphy.  But according to the Detroit Free Press, during his testimony yesterday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Toyoda did not explain why the automaker took years to address thousands of sudden acceleration complaints involving its vehicles.  According to the U.K. Telegraph, Toyoda did promise to personally lead a new committee on global quality. Toyota is also setting up a safety advisory board to be led by two yet-to-be-named independent experts, Toyoda said.

Toyoda's appearance appears to have done little to quiet criticism of his company, according to the Free Press. At one point, committee member Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio pointedly asked Toyota “Where’s the remorse?”

Toyoda also addressed concerns that the electronic throttle control systems could be behind acceleration problems, saying he was “absolutely confident there is no problem with design” of the system.

This was in contrast to testimony James E. Lentz, the president of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A, gave yesterday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who said the automaker still hasn’t ruled out electronics as a potential cause of sudden acceleration. Lentz said his company was awaiting results of two studies of electronics in Toyota and Lexus vehicles, and that recent floor mat and accelerator pedal fixes might “not totally” solve the problems.

Since September, Toyota has recalled nearly 8 million vehicles worldwide for issues involving unintended acceleration. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has now received more than 2,000 complaints of sudden, unintended acceleration with Toyota and Lexus vehicles that involve more than 30 deaths and hundreds of accidents since 2000.

The recalls have seriously injured Toyota’s long-standing reputation for quality and reliability. Toyota has also been strongly criticized for what many see as a slow response to the unintended acceleration problem.

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